LONDON: England’s Alastair Cook fell short of a dream farewell century as India’s bowlers roared back to leave the hosts reeling on 198-7 at stumps on day one of the fifth and final Test at The Oval on Friday.
With England having built an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series afater victory in Southampton last week, all eyes were on their record Test run-scorer Cook’s bid to end his international career just how he began it 12 years ago — with a century against India.
Displaying trademark fortitude he grafted his way to within 29 runs of three figures as the hosts reached 133-1 after tea, having won the toss on a day seemingly made for batting.
But when the 33-year-old played on to fall for 71 it sparked an all-too-familiar England collapse with skipper Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran failing to trouble the scorers.
Moeen Ali played and missed countless times to score a 167-ball 50 but by the close a tenacious India were in the ascendancy with England relying on Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid to repair the damage.
Ishant Sharma, who had Cook dropped on 37, took three for 28 while recalled spinner Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah took two apiece as India raised hopes of a first Oval win since 1971.
With blue skies punctuated by cotton wool clouds, a lush outfield and an Indian guard of honour to welcome him to the crease for his 161st and final Test, the stage looked set for Cook to mark the day with a 33rd Test century.
Even the cricketing Gods seemed to be smiling on England’s greatest accumulator of Test runs when he was dropped on 37.
But having reached his 57th Test half-century in typically gritty style, his luck ran out.